How do I travel?

Some basics about me and how and why I travel, first.

I work from home, as a freelance translator, which gives me quite bit of freedom to decide when I’m on holiday and when I am not. This also means I work often days that are way too long, not to mention weekends and official holidays when everyone else is at home, enjoying… well, enjoying whatever it is they do when they are not working. I’ve been doing this for several years now, and still have not quite got the hang of this “just say no” thing that I’ve heard such good things about.

Yet the long days and weekends spent working also mean I get paid enough to travel relatively whimsically. Since no one but me decides my holidays, I can just book flights to spend some 8 days (plus 2 days spent traveling there and back) in Japan only 2.5 months before actually going. (More about said Japan trip later, as that happened in May.)

This also means I mostly travel alone. Most people cannot just decide “oh I’m going to take two weeks off on these dates!” without at least consulting their boss or whoever decides when they have their holidays. And generally those cheap flight prices do not last forever, either, so see-sawing between “should I go should I stay” (dang, I know that song for YEARRRRS and now it still always makes me think of Stranger Things and nothing else…) for days on end is not really possible. A case in point: Me and my boyfriend noticed that you could get to Toronto relatively cheaply at the end of June, but the prices went up by some 200 euros per person before he got confirmation from work that he actually can go. This means the flights to Toronto were more expensive than my flights to Tokyo, even if there was approximately the same time between the booking itself and the actual flight dates.

So why do I travel so much? Well, my bucket list of places I want to see seems to get longer all the time, no matter how many trips I go on. I’m very interested in different cultures and languages (which, I guess, is partially why I ended up being a translator, but does not mean I dare to speak any other language than Finnish or English without panicking), nerdy things (which made Japan an obvious destination), different kinds of foods, and environments that are different from my own.

I tend to travel only to bigger cities. That is the easiest option, as I cannot drive, and public transport tends to work better in cities than in the countryside. That, however, does not mean I do not enjoy being in the middle of nowhere, too. I, living in the busy Flanders area of Belgium, actually miss the Finnish forests rather often. I love being somewhere where I am more likely to see a squirrel than a human, because I, even if I have learned to act relatively extroverted, need my alone time. I’m one of those people who wants to spend half her life in a busy metropolis where there is always something interesting happening, and the other half in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, just listening to the birds and hoping a bear doesn’t come and rifle through your trash or something. Since your average person, especially without a car, can’t have both, a relatively small town it is for me, even if Oostende, as a coastal town, does get VERY busy during the summer months with all the tourists who love the beaches and the shopping.

I am not much of a beach person. Nor do I really like shopping. Yet I like this town. It has a cute small Japanese garden, most of the shops I might need, such as a specialty coffee and tea shop, a good bookshop, an Asian market, a bio shop, a few nice restaurants (although I do wish there would be more variety, not just burgers everywhere), and some nice views. Yes, that beach looks nice, too. Especially when not filled to the brim with people trying to get a tan with the North Sea wind keeping them cooler than intended. And I have my own group of friends here, even if they drive me mad sometimes (and I’m sure I also drive them mad more often than not).

Oostende at its finest.

So, what do I do when I travel? I do partially the same things I would do close to home, too. Same, same, but different: I enjoy good food, go to a zoo if there is one, visit museums, and enjoy the architecture and quirky local details. And usually some things are better than at home and others are worse. Zoos might be amazing or they might be sad with stressed out animals. Food might be delicious or overpriced, bland gunk. Museums might be free and interesting or expensive and small. Yet you never know how it will all be for you until you actually go there and see it all for yourself. And that’s what I try to do: I read what other people have said and done, and then I go and see the same things and more for myself. I do quite a lot research beforehand, but also am almost always happily surprised by the things I did not think to research, or when things ended up being different from what I thought they might be, or sometimes even when they were just as good as I thought they would be.

What is something I do not enjoy about traveling? Well, I feel guilty about traveling, especially flying, since, as everyone should know by now, flying is not exactly good for anyone anywhere. I try to offset this life choice by other means, such as spending quite a lot less on other things and cutting down on meat and partially dairy, too. Not that easy when living with a meat lover, but he mostly goes along with my guilty conscience, even if he doesn’t suffer from one. I might not do as much about it all as much I could, but better to do something than to do nothing. If this world needs more of something, it is more of trying and less of judging people who do at least something right, even if they do something else wrong. Telling people all the ways they are so fudging wrong has never really helped anyone, it just causes defense mechanisms to kick in.

So, who am I, in short? A translator who wants to experience new things, new places, new people, new everything.

And why do I travel? Because just reading about things is not enough for me. No one can experience things for you. Pictures and text do not convey the smells, the tastes, the feel of things. (Don’t get me wrong, I do love reading, too. But it is not the same as, you know, reading under the palm trees or in a cafe in Amsterdam or something.)

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